Recovery Within The Police Ranks

Recently, The Denver Post published an important article about a portion of the recovery community that never gets much attention. We are talking about officers of the law who have struggled with addiction and what sobriety can mean for those who don the uniform. Yes police should certainly be held to a high standard (they are protecting lives, after all), but they are human just like the rest of us and can easily fall prey to the trappings of drugs and alcohol.

 

The story came out following the high-profile suspension of Denver Officer Jayson Spitzer, who was found guilty of driving under the influence while on the job. Certainly there needs to be repercussions for that, as DUI’s can easily lead to disastrous accidents and fatalities.  But Spitzer admittedly came clean as an alcoholic, entered treatment and served his time.

 

In a typical field, that wouldn’t lead to banishment from one’s chosen field. So the question becomes, should police be judged differently when they succumb to an addiction? As The Post correctly put it, “law enforcement officers are under a tremendous amount of stress, which can sometimes trigger dependence on drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Shouldn’t society seek to aid those who abuse but ask for help?

 

Admittedly, there is no easy answer to this question. But, to their credit, the Denver Police Department is taking proactive steps to prevent addictions within its ranks. Police Chief Robert White has pushed forward a local resiliency program for officers having a hard time coping with the job. Free counseling services are available, as are recovery references which aim to curb habits before they go too far.

 

The Post has already deemed the program to be a major success. In the first months of 2018, 80 law enforcement employees have taken advantage of its services; with an additional seven proactively choosing to enter treatment.

 

As for those like Spitzer (whose failed breathalyzer led to his conviction), a 60-day unpaid suspension was handed down; followed by mandatory treatment and random urine tests for the next two years. And for the record, his sentence would have been much harsher had he actually injured anyone while driving. Spitzer was, however, able to keep his job.

 

If anything, stories like this go to show the utter blindness of addiction. As we’ve previously mentioned in our blogs, it doesn’t matter if you’re a high-powered lawyer or someone facing homelessness on the streets, this is a disease that knows no bounds. And it can just as easily strike those who vow to serve and protect.

 

Recovery Advocates Share Their Stories In Vegas

The city of Las Vegas has become known as a leading destination for conventions and events. Whether it’s the CES electronics show, the SEMA car summit or some big pow wow in the heart of Caesar’s Palace, you can usually find at least 2-3 major happenings a month near their famous strip. Well this February, a different kind of get together took over the town. It was the fifth annual Black Monday event, organized by the nonprofit There Is No Hero In Heroin Foundation.

 

Emphasizing recovery, hope and addiction survival, it drew hundreds of attendees from across the country and had plenty of notable speakers. Facing Addiction leader Ryan Hampton offered inspiring words at the kickoff.

 

“We must not let the power of recovery go unnoticed,” Hampton told the Monday crowd. “We must show that it works. Every single person in this room is living proof that the crisis in front of us is not an insurmountable task.”

 

Black Monday was also open to younger attendees, working to educate teens and coeds about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Representatives from Nevada’s Clark County School District offered their own stories and showed pride through a local “Students Fighting Addiction” program. Though it’s difficult to hear, many of the teens in the program have already battled serious dependencies. The good news is, they’ve made it to the other side and now act as role models for other high schoolers.

 

“If it weren’t for [our ‘Students Fighting Addiction’ program], I know many of us would either be dead or homeless right now,” student Khara Greenwell explained from the Black Monday stage. “These counselors, teachers and recovery advocates see us as human beings.”

 

Certainly the No Hero In Heroin Foundation deserves a lot of credit for this movement too. They put tremendous effort into spreading the word and creating a viral community that can continue the Black Monday experience online. Even more moving, their site includes a Memorial Page and special tributes to the countless Vegas citizens who have lost their lives to addiction.

 

So even if many of us couldn’t actually be in Vegas for the one-day event, No Hero In Heroin has helped bring the experience home. Through a series of hashtags (#BlackMonday2017) and viral videos you can see just how much of an impact an summit like this can have.

 

Click below to see how successful the movement was in 2016…

Delaware Launches ‘Centers of Excellence’ To Help Treat Addiction

Even though we are California-based, we believe it’s important to look nationwide when it comes to successful addiction treatment models. One that recently caught our eye was centered in Delaware and aims to treat 900 local residents through a revolutionary new service called “Centers of Excellence.”

 

With help from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, this unique approach will include three community hubs constructed throughout the state. Each will be staffed with peer recovery coaches and offer free services to those struggling with dependencies (particularly opioid abuse). It is getting off the ground thanks to $2 million in federal funding.

 

Though not quite the same as a recovery clinic, the Excellence Centers will work as a go-between for those in the early and severe stages of addiction. People who enter the program will be able to use the Centers to connect to appropriate sober living homes and navigate through the health care system, ensuring the experience does not break their bank accounts. The Excellence Centers will also work to help citizens who have completed treatment, connecting them to employment opportunities and affordable housing options.

 

“This is so critical for us in our state as we work to ensure every Delawarean who has and suffers from substance addiction have access to quality treatment of a variety of ranges that match where they are in need,” Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health director Elizabeth Romero told the press. “Whether it’s inpatient, outpatient, sober living facilities, housing or education, they get exactly what they need at the time they need it to support them in a successful recovery.”

 

Delaware, in particular, has been under the microscope recently because of their drastic increase of reported overdose deaths. 308 lives were lost in 2016 alone, due primarily to the opioid epidemic. And though 2017’s numbers haven’t been totaled quite yet, many are predicting that count is set to drastically increase (particularly when you acknowledge that 24 Delawareans have died in the first month-and-a-half of 2018).

 

The Delaware Online news site did a very thorough job of outlining the unique services that every Excellence Center will offer. Broken down, they will include…

 

  • Comprehensive substance use evaluations
  • Individual treatment plans tailored to a patient’s needs and accompanying case management
  • Medication-assisted treatment induction and maintenance, including the use of all three Food and Drug Administration-approved medications: buprenorphine and vivitrol by the start of the program, and methadone within six months
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Links to recovery and transitional housing
  • Trauma-informed psychiatric evaluations and treatment
  • Co-management of behavioral and medical disorders
  • Motivational strategies to increase engagement with treatment
  • Prescription Monitoring Program checks and fluid drug screens, as required by the state division

 

It obviously has us thinking, can California work on implementing something similar? There is no doubt that opioid overdose deaths are on the rise in our state too and a program like this can be hugely beneficial.

 

 

Steven Tyler Surprises And Inspires Recovery Graduates

Whether they know it or not, celebrities wield a lot of power when it comes to addiction and recovery. Many times fans look up to their movie and music heroes, hoping to emulate their lifestyles (whether it’s toward the positive or the negative). Well we’re proud to say that Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler is using his clout for the greater good and just this month, surprised a class of recovery graduates with some of his inspiring stories.

 

Steven has been on our radar for a long time. Though he’s definitely battled his demons, Tyler’s honesty and advocacy work has been incredibly powerful in steering people away from alcohol and drugs. His latest gesture happened on a much smaller scale, but (as the viral stories are illustrating) it made a big impact.

 

Over in Maui, Hawaii (where Steven has a home), the local drug court attendees were preparing to graduate from their program after completing their mandatory service. As they were finalizing their work in the courtroom, a surprise visitor entered, introduced himself and offered some moving words.

 

“My name’s Steven,” Tyler told the group. “I’m an alcoholic and a recovering drug addict. My hat is off to you. You’re my heroes here today because you have come from somewhere that I lived myself. To come out through the wormhole like you’re doing today is a true beyond-belief miracle. I’m so proud of you, each and every one.”

 

Not surprisingly, the group was stunned and thrilled to have the legendary rocker in their presence. And interestingly enough, so was Maui’s 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza, who welcomed Tyler and thanked him for his time. Steven also made a point to acknowledge Cardoza and the work that his team has done to help people struggling with addiction.

 

“I’m honored, so honored to be surrounded by such higher-ups—Judge Cardoza and everybody here who, back in my heyday, I would have been scared to death of,” Tyler added.

 

When asked about his sobriety regimen, Tyler shared passages from a Daily Reflections book that he has kept by his side since the late 1980’s. He acknowledged that recovery is a very individualistic experience and people need to choose a route that is right for them and makes them feel comfortable. Tyler revealed that 12-Step was essential to his recovery and acknowledged having multiple sponsors throughout the U.S.

 

In the end though, he took a very humbling view of the journey that got him through addiction and took time to talk to each attendee about their struggles.

 

“I want you guys to know that music is not my proudest achievement,” he concluded. “It’s nothing compared to being sober and it’s nothing compared to having my kids love me.”

 

Mothers Of Overdose Victims Target Trump

We can only imagine the pain a parent must feel when they lose a child to addiction. And tragically it appears as though more and more Americans are joining that club, as the opioid epidemic ravages the country and consumes more lives. Recently, a group of mothers and fathers decided to take their grief one step further and create an overdose awareness campaign directly targeting President Donald Trump. Through a series of letters and social media messages, they hope to raise awareness and implement more government intervention when it comes to tackling this crisis.

 

Delaware native Mary Beth Cichocki is credited with initiating the movement, thanks to a powerful Facebook post she wrote earlier this month. Titled “My Letter To Trump…,” it tells the personal story of her 37-year-old son Matt and the addiction struggle that ultimately claimed his life. Touching on everything from the enablers (one of whom she lists as Purdue Pharma), to Washington D.C.’s  failure to act, to the lies she accuses Trump himself of spreading, it is definitely a powerful piece.

 

[Mr. Trump,] you must recognize that 21 million Americans suffer from addiction,” Cichocki writes. “So your talking against using is futile. What you must also recognize is that addiction is not a behavioral issue. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, ‘addiction is a chronic brain disorder, not merely a behavioral problem or simply the result of taking the wrong choices’. No amount of talking will save anyone living in the throes of this disease. If you are serious about addressing this epidemic in a way that will be effective, then let me suggest you increase your knowledge regarding what works to treat the disease of addiction.

 

You can read Mary Beth’s complete statement by clicking on the link below…

Interestingly enough, Cichocki’s first plan of action focused on the Valentine’s Day holiday. Earlier in the month, she and several of her social media followers put together greeting cards for their lost loved ones and actually mailed them to the White House. And it was the first of many ideas she has to alert President Trump of the true nature of addiction.

 

Other participants, like local mom Paula Mattson, feel like their stories can make an impact. She, herself, lost her 26-year-old son to opioid abuse and has worked to spread the word in her own community by writing, posting and mailing messages to the Commander-in-Chief.

 

“Just saying, ‘Don’t do it’ — my kids all had the ‘just say no.’ That doesn’t work,” Mattson added.  “[Trump] really needs to talk to us who are on the front lives of saving our children’s lives. To not fight back would mean that it’s OK. That it’s OK that this happened to my son … I have to try to get our president’s attention.”

 

 

First Supervised Injection Sites Set To Open

San Francisco has always had a reputation as a progressive city. Whether it’s tech development in nearby Silicon Valley, or new groundbreaking laws that more conservative regions are slower to embrace; they do seem to push the envelope more than most. And this week, local officials announced a huge leap they’re making in the realm of addiction. Starting this summer, SF will be America’s first city to open supervised injection sites for people suffering from dependencies.

 

Ultimately, there will be two sites within the city designated for (and endorsing) safe injections. Per the mayor’s press release, this will serve an estimated 22,000 people who suffer from intravenous drug addictions. And though to many this may seem controversial, San Francisco’s local Health Commission approved the measure by a unanimous vote.

 

“I understand the misgivings around it and some of the rhetoric from people who don’t support it,” city mayor Mark Farrell told the press. “But we absolutely need to give it a try.”

 

Though this is groundbreaking for the United States, many nations around the world have already pushed the movement forward. In total, there are 120 similar facilities operating across the globe; in countries like Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Spain. And for all intents and purposes, the SF version will operate exactly the same as the others. As Drug Policy Alliance director Laura Thomas put it, “You show up, you check in, you use your drugs, you hang out for a while, interact with the staff and then go on your way.”

 

We happen to support the cause as well, particularly because of the additional dangers that can occur when people use dirty needles. Diseases like HIV and Hepatitis can easily spread when people shoot up together. Programs like these aim to eliminate that threat, while also working as a support system; educating users about the benefits of recovery.

 

And though many believe it’s backwards thinking, statistics have shown that facilities like this can actually lessen drug use across a city. Recovery advocate and registered nurse Mandy Sladky explained the argument to TheFix.com. She also happens to  run her own safe injection support group.

 

“These types of facilities connect people to services, which gives them access to treatment, so it actually lessens drug use,” Sladky explained to the site. “It certainly lessens outdoor public use—and therefore discarding syringes in places like alleyways and parks. And crime does not increase in the areas.”

 

We will certainly be following this story and the results of this important step forward once the sites open in early July.

 

Alcoholism Becomes Hot Topic Among ‘Mom Bloggers’

Just because Valley Recovery Center is a men’s-only facility, doesn’t mean that we aren’t acutely aware of the dependency issues facing women in this country. Sadly addiction holds no prejudices; impacting people of all races, religions and genders. And though we might not realize it, seemingly stable housewives and moms can just as easily fall victim to its clutches; particularly when it comes to drinking. Famed Babble blogger Sarah Cottrell bravely addressed that fact with an article that outlined her personal struggles overcoming alcohol abuse.

 

Cottrell’s piece outlined the dirty little secret of the Mommy Drinking Culture throughout the suburbs of America and how overindulging in wine is commonplace and even celebrated among her fellow parent bloggers. As Cottrell puts it, there is even humor associated with chugging down a bottle of red after a long day of dealing with kids. In fact, it is often jokingly called “Mommy Juice,” with hours of the day designated at “Wine O’Clock.”

 

Cottrell boldly shares her own alcoholism story, which paints her as a very functional mom and career woman. Like many women facing alcohol dependencies, she was not a fall down drunk or even neglecting her professional responsibilities. She was, however, doing clear damage to her health with a continued habit that went on for years.

 

“I’ve rationalized my drinking over the years in a million different ways. I’m not a fall down drunk living under a bridge,” Cottrell writes. “CPS isn’t dragging my kids away, and my marriage is not on the brink of a booze-tinged meltdown. How can a put-together, happily married, mom of three with a master’s degree, career, and the ability to meet every writing deadline with a sharp smile have a drinking problem?”

 

Indeed, she admittedly did have a problem and Cottrell highlighted many other high-profile social media moms who have been saying the same thing. Even worse is how mainstream American almost celebrates these types of habits. Many Target stores, she points out, now have wine bars and comedic alcohol merchandise (like “happy drunk” wife birthday cards and Chardonnay-themed purses and clothes). Memes showing happily boozed Sex and the City characters abound across the web as well.

 

Thankfully now, Cottrell has become a vocal recovery advocate and regularly uses her large social following to warn other mothers about the dangers of drinking. She also makes a point to call out the red flags and warning signs. We certainly encourage spreading that word and taking a stand against the “humor” and desensitization the mainstream is putting on female wine drinking and alcohol abuse.

 

Florida Sober Homes Put Under The Microscope

For a while, we’ve been reporting about the high number of fraudulent sober homes cheating clients in Florida. Well now noted politicians are entering the equation, demanding federal investigations and intense crackdowns on the “crooked” recovery practices that are operating throughout the state.

 

Republican senator Marco Rubio has become one of the loudest proponents of this measure, taking his complaints to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a letter presented on Tuesday, Rubio asked Sessions “to the fullest extent possible – investigate claims of kickbacks and false statements associated with federal health plans and to ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the devastation that they have caused.”

 

Truth be told, there are some horrendous accusations coming out of the state. Everything from illegal patient brokering, to actual drug suppliers making visits to the facilities. Often times, insurance is at the center of these scams. The longer a patient is in a clinic, the more the shady operators can collect.

 

NBC News did a recent profile of some of the unethical practices happening in cities like Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. Per their website,

 

A recent NBC News investigation interviewed the mothers of several women who died from opioid overdoses after they thought they were receiving treatment at a Florida facility. The mothers recounted the victims being shuffled, during a brief period of time, between multiple treatment centers, excessive laboratory tests, and questionable treatments that resulted in insurance companies being billed upwards of $1.2 million. Unfortunately, these women did not get the help that they needed and ultimately passed away after being ‘treated’ at a fraudulent sober homes.

 

So it actually isn’t surprising to see a high-profile figure like Rubio raise the red flag in his home state. Some of his other points included getting inspectors general at The Labor Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to look into illegal kickbacks. He specifically called out Labor Dept IG Scott Dahl, asking that he notify welfare and pension benefit plans that the treatment centers they cover be verified. And to HHS IG Daniel Levinson, Rubio asked to develop recommendations “to identify and suspend all payments to disreputable treatment centers or sober homes.”

 

Now, of course, there are plenty of reputable sober homes throughout the state as well. But requiring proper credentials and verification is essential in shutting down crooked practices. Treatment centers should be held to an incredibly high standard and we urge anyone in our state to do their own due diligence before choosing a facility for them or a loved one.

 

Purdue Pharma Backing Off From Opioids

Every now and then, an addiction story actually makes the front page of the major news sites. And that certainly was the case this week, after pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma announced that it will no longer be promoting its OxyContin product to doctors across the U.S.

 

Purdue has been the recipient of a wide array of criticism since the opioid epidemic began taking shape earlier this decade. Even the federal government lashed out at the billion dollar company for “aggressively marketing” its addictive products to the medical community. Now, with the crisis in full effect, Purdue is finally backing off, telling CNN that it will be cutting its sales force in half and turning its focus to marketing non-opioid drugs.

 

The company did reveal that it will continue sell OxyContin, however, but not with the same aggressive promotion tactics as before. For better or worse, we certainly feel this is a step in the right direction and a move that could make at least somewhat of a dent in the crisis.

 

For the record, OxyContin has gotten a lot of the credit for the start of America’s opioid epidemic. Highly prescribed for pain, it has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and linked to thousands of overdose deaths. Purdue, themselves, are facing legal action across 400 cities due to issues with Oxy and their other related products.

 

Their latest response comes via a written statement. Sites like The Verge published Purdue’s official stance, which many feel is still somewhat insincere. “We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation,” their statement reads.  “From now on, we will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers.” As a follow up, the company has now laid off more than 50 percent of its sales force.

 

Opponents have strongly criticized the move as “too little, too late,” emphasizing that the reduction is more motivated by finances than by the greater good. With huge lawsuits pending and the rise in competitive, generic painkiller prescriptions; many feel that Purdue needs to do more.

 

“The genie is out of the bottle,” Co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, Andrew Kolodny, told CBS News.  “I don’t think that this is coming out of good intentions. I think sales for their products have already been declining. These guys and others created this huge opioid epidemic in our country, and they need to clean up the mess.”

 

 

Link Discovered Between Opioid Addiction and Murder Rates

There is no denying that certain addictions can lead people to violence. But do they actually drive up murder statistics? That’s what Vox.com is claiming in a lengthy new article that ties America’s opioid crisis to the recent spike in national homicides.

 

Tragically, both statistics appear to be on the rise. Within the past three years, the opioid epidemic has led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths, spiking up more than 20 percent from 2015 to 2016. Interestingly, the U.S. murder rate has also risen; ticking up 2 percent during the same time frame. According to University of Missouri researcher Richard Rosenfeld this is no coincidence. He believes that the illicit painkiller trade has contributed to America’s increased crime wave and has stats to prove it.

 

Vox reports that beginning in 2011, the opioid epidemic began to shift from traditional prescription pills to harder narcotics like heroin. This brought the crisis more into “street drug” territory, with dealers, robberies and underworld crime elements. Substances like illegal fentanyl also play a role in this (according to Vox), since they are now one of the most in-demand black market drugs.

 

“As demand for illicit drugs increases, people enter the underground drug market to purchase the drug,” Rosenfeld explained. “Those underground markets tend to be relatively volatile and sometimes violent places, so I’m suggesting that what we’re seeing here is a spike in drug-related homicides associated with drug transactions that become violent.”

 

One other statistic that Rosenfeld brings into the equation concerns race. His findings show that White Americans account for some of the sharpest spikes in U.S. murder rates, particularly since 2014. He went on to explain that white communities have been hit extremely hard by the opioid crisis and now may be more involved in the illegal buying and selling of these painkillers.

 

“That murder rate increase among whites is really quite notable,” Rosenfeld added. “It’s the largest single-year percentage increase in white homicides, with the exception of the 2001 terrorist attack, since the early 1990s. When you compare that to the opioid addiction statistics, a story starts to emerge.”

 

Rosenfeld goes on to warn Vox readers about the potential of gang and organized crime elements entering the opioid equation. Indeed as the crisis grows and more illegal painkillers are being sold, there is a larger probability that dangerous criminals will take part in the trade (if they haven’t already).

 

Rosenfeld did admit that there are still some holes in his theory and more analyses are needed, but he certainly could be looking in a realistic direction. “There’s a lot we don’t know,” Rosenfeld concluded. “But this is still a hypothesis worth mulling over — since it could suggest that the opioid crisis has even further reaching effects than we originally thought.

 

Fighting Addiction In Our Own Backyard

We’ve got to hand it to the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. Our own local paper has done a tremendous job of bringing addiction to the forefront and bravely reporting on stories that many other community news outlets refuse to touch. In 2018 alone, they’ve shared multiple stories about neighborhood heroes who battled and beat their dependencies, as well as local event announcements aimed to educate Newhall residents about the dangers of the opioid crisis.

 

As we’ve said many times before, we are extremely proud to be part of the Santa Clarita community. Our Newhall facility has become tremendously accommodating, thanks very much to the tranquil, homespun environment where it sits. And did we mention that we’re ranked one of the safest cities in California? Well that’s a story for another time, as today we’re putting our attention toward The Signal and the incredible work their writers are doing.

 

One of their stories that recently caught our attention focused on longtime SCV resident Larry Huddleston. Larry bravely put a face to the localized opioid crisis and shared his story of addiction and recovery. An Air Force veteran who suffered back pain after the service, he eventually found himself hooked on fentanyl; taking as many as 100 painkillers a month.

 

Huddleston’s innocent prescription quickly escalated into a full-blown addiction, which nearly destroyed his personal life and career. But, as we mentioned before, Larry is a true success story and fought back against his urges; ultimately letting go of his dependency in 2013. Since then, he has become a local recovery advocate and openly shares his story with other Newhall residents.

 

“There’s a lot that people don’t understand about what this drug really does,” Huddleston told The Signal. “I’ve learned a lot. I don’t judge anybody on this point anymore because I think one of the main things I learned is that people who are physically addicted — they’re treating some kind of pain, I was treating my back pain, and over all that time… I had no idea how much it was numbing that emotional pain — until I stopped.”

 

And for the record, The Signal puts out stories like these as a regular series; which they title SCV in Recovery. The news site also showcases community action events coming out of Santa Clarita, many times focused on addiction. Just last week, they profiled the Thursday night recovery panels that occur at Valencia Public Library.

 

The previous event featured speaking sessions from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s executive director Cary Quashen. His lecture focused on family members of addicts and preventative measures that can be taken to combat the early stages of opioid addiction. The panel also included local residents who conquered their addictions and are now thriving with a clean and sober lifestyle.

 

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend following The Signal on social media. And if you don’t live in our neighborhood, make sure to support your own local news outlet and encourage them to profile this devastating crisis. A small article can go a long way…

 

Showtime Miniseries Explores Addiction

If you happen to be a Showtime subscriber, now would be a very good time to click open your program guide and record The Trade. This highly acclaimed miniseries is now airing on the network in five parts and offers a thorough, brutally honest look at addiction in America. Helmed by Oscar-nominated director Matthew Heineman (who drew praise for his doc, Cartel Land), it zeroes in specifically on the opioid crisis.

 

Heroin figures prominently into The Trade’s storyline, with profiles that include struggling addicts in Ohio and the criminals who harvest it over in Mexico. Heineman has already drawn praise for this stylistic portrait, which The L.A. Times described as “a wide-ranging report with no advice to give, only pictures to show.”

 

The Ohio portion gets right to the heart of America’s opioid epidemic, as the state is one of the most hardest hit by this crisis. Various types of residents are portrayed, illustrating the wide range of emotions that go along with these addictions. There are the hard-on-their-luck parents who are desperately trying to get clean (to no avail). And there are also the people who show complete contentment with their dependency and tell the cameras that they have no desire to let go of their habit.

 

“Everyone is trying to break free of the shackles of this drug, but unfortunately, it has become an epidemic.” Heineman explained to TheFix.com. “”We really want to show people the personal costs of a lot of this. [And we want to] raise the more challenging questions that we feel need to be asked about the opioid epidemic and the drug trade as a whole.”

 

The section of the film that is really raising eyebrows, however, takes place in the Mexican mountain town of Guerrero. Guerrero happens to be responsible for half of all heroin that’s produced in the country and Heineman’s cameras were able to go deep into its underworld. Felons, traffickers and even cartel leaders are featured in the doc, as are Mexican Federales as they try to make a dent in this growing operation. The Trade even goes so far as to show the actual production cycle of heroin, from poppy plant to full-blown narcotic.

 

As The Times astutely puts it, the central theme behind this movie is pure entrapment. Those living in Mexico producing the drug are trapped in a life of crime and poverty. And those struggling in Ohio are trapped in a cycle of crippling addiction.

 

For those who subscribe, we highly recommend seeing this doc. And for those who don’t, you can at least get a sample of The Trade below…

 

 

 

Educating Athletes About Addiction

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at basic fundamentals when evaluating America’s opioid crisis. What is the ultimate purpose of these prescriptions? To relieve pain. And what is a field where pain is most common? Sports. Believe it or not many people fail to make that simple connection, which means athletes (including students, amateurs and professionals) often lack basic knowledge when it comes to treating their injuries and understanding the dangers of these pills.

 

ABC News recently published a telling article about this issue, providing factoids and interviews with sports professionals who have dealt with opioid addiction. Though we might not realize it, this profession is getting hit hard by the crisis and deserves to be part of the ongoing conversation.

 

Football, not surprisingly, is one of the areas where these dependencies most commonly develop. Just watching last week’s Super Bowl, it’s easy to see what kinds of bone crunching can occur between quarters and how quick relief (often in pill form) is needed to get players back on the field. The ABC piece focused on the suffering that occurs among amateurs too, particularly local Oklahoma resident Austin Box.

 

Box’s family was profiled in the article, describing the agonizing addiction the young lineman faced and how it eventually took his life. It also delved into the parents’ point of view and how both his mom and dad were unable to see the warning signs of his dependency.

 

“There is no question he hid it from us, but we had no idea until he died,”  Austin’s father told the site. “My wife and I have felt extreme guilt because we missed something or we didn’t do something we could have done or picked up on any kind of nuance. I know he had prescriptions when he had his back [injury], but not the full extent until after he passed away.”

 

 

Like many opioid addicts, Austin succumbed to an overdose. University of Tulsa’s team physician, Dr. Brad Boone, also spoke with ABC, sharing some of the traits that Austin and many like him often exhibit.

 

“The thing about the kids or anybody that is addicted to narcotics, pain medication they actually function pretty normally so you can’t look at them and determine if they are impaired,” he explained. “The stigma of addiction needs to go away so families and our patients are able to seek help when they’re addicted without feeling socially demoralized.”

 

Dr. Boone added that now, opioids are rarely prescribed to University of Tulsa athletes. And in the rare circumstances where they are needed, the pills are never kept on campus and are given out in small dosages at a maximum of seven days.

 

Though Austin is now gone, his father Craig continues his mission to educate athletes about the dangers of addiction. In fact, he has started a successful foundation in his son’s honor and continues to do press tours across the U.S.

 

You can see the full ABC report by clicking below…

 

How High Schools Are Preparing For Overdoses

There are certain harsh realities that many of us don’t want to face. One of them is that addiction can start as early as ninth grade and, sad to say, OD’s can be a common occurrence among young teens. To their credit, several high schools are becoming proactive to that fact by equipping teachers and faculty with the opioid overdose antidote, Narcan.

 

Northern Highlands Regional High in New Jersey is one of the schools to embrace this movement. According to CNBC and TheFix.com, they have been approved to carry Narcan on their campus. Currently, Northern Highlands’ nurse, athletic trainer and supervisor of health have all received training to administer the drug, if any sort of emergency were to arise.

 

“We all saw what was happening in our neighboring counties and how widespread the opioid crisis is here and across the country,” school principal Joseph Occhino told the sites. “I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, we’re prepared.”

 

This also comes after the release of some alarming overdose stats among teens. Per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans between the ages of 15 to 19 saw a 19 percent increase in OD fatalities between 2014 and 2015.

 

Much of this has to do with the country’s opioid crisis. The facts are that many young people are exposed to painkillers via their parents and friends. It’s very easy to get into family medicine cabinets and abuse medications. Beyond that, there is proven data that shows doctors are prescribing more and more opioids to teens.

 

“Doctors have to be more aware of how much they’re prescribing to teens, because of the risk of opioid addiction and the chance that they will share these drugs,” University of Michigan researcher Dr. Calista Harbaugh told CNBC. “There’s been this perception out there that doctors don’t prescribe opioids to teens, but that isn’t the case.”

 

So it’s not surprising to see schools like Northern Highlands Regional take this aggressive step. CNBC went on to report that more than 3,300 doses of Narcan have been distributed to high schools across the U.S. (all free of charge).

 

Part of this movement has been supported by Adapt Pharma, who manufactures the antidote.  And that’s not all. In the coming months, the company is looking to expand its school program to universities and colleges (along with the necessary training that goes along with it). We are certainly in favor of that, as preparedness is an essential key in overcoming these awful statistics.

 

Addiction Becomes Prime Topic Among Hip-Hop Stars

Hip-hop music has become famous for its brutal honesty and its ability to tackle difficult topics that genres like pop veer away from. That’s why we actually weren’t that surprised to hear that addiction has become a prime topic among rap lyricists in the music biz. Rising artists like Vic Mensa, Logic and Draper have made it an ongoing theme in some of their most enduring songs.

 

The Los Angeles Times offered an insightful piece on the topic this week, showcasing the young talent and their fearlessness when it comes to exposing their dependencies. Mensa was profiled for the piece and described some of the inspirations behind his hit track, “Wings.”

 

Sample lyrics include…

 

In the cyclone of my own addiction. The voices in my head keep talking… / ‘You’ll never be good enough…you never was / …You hurt everyone around you, you’re impossible to love / …I wish you were never born, we would all be better for it / …You’re still a drug addict, you’re nothing without your medicine / Go and run to your sedative, you can’t run forever, Vic.

 

You can listen to the full track below (which also features Pharrell Williams and Saul Williams).

 

Logic, who was recently featured on the Grammys broadcast, preached recovery on several of his songs. In fact, the title of one is “1-800-273-8255;” which is literally a support hotline for help.  The L.A. Times reports that one single alone shot lifeline calls up between 30 and 40 percent.

 

On the flip side, certain artists have been criticized for potentially glamorizing drugs and alcohol in their lyrics. Draper, for example, raps about how narcotics like cocaine have helped him “numb his pain,” which some believe could be a dangerous influence on young listeners.

 

In “Better Off Dying,” he raps…

 

Cocaine lined up, secrets that I’m hiding / …You don’t wanna cry now, better off dying. Even if I try hard, I ain’t gonna make it.

 

Mensa (who was interviewed for the piece) counters that sentiment. In his opinion, hip-hop is merely reflecting the experiences that he and his peers are facing in the modern world. “”It was big for me to recognize that drugs are a symptom of an underlying issue,” he explained. “You see it in hip-hop; you see it in punk. These kids come from nothing. Young black men experience a lot of trauma. They’ve lost people, seen violence, been humiliated by society. So they turn to alcohol, molly, lean.”

 

To his credit, Vic is very open about his two years of sobriety and is using his social media clout to speak out to fans about getting clean. He is also doing his part to influence his peers about the power their microphones wield when it comes to addiction awareness.

 

“There are so many ways for people who are suffering to seek treatment,” he added. “Any way to remove the stigma helps, and that can include popular culture and artists who resonate across their communities. These songs could be game changers.”